Wednesday, June 03, 2020

3rd June 2020 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Kentucky Hosts 2020 SASDA Cyber Conference 

LITTLE ROCK, AR -- Before COVID-19, many people were anxiously anticipating a trip to Lexington, Kentucky, this week for the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (SASDA) conference.  SASDA is comprised of ag commissioners from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virgin Islands, Virginia, and West Virginia.  The annual conference is held every June and the meeting location rotates to the SASDA president's home state.  Description: E:\Downloaded Data\unnamed.jpg

Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Ryan Quarles was looking forward to showcasing his state's diverse agriculture portfolio -- from hemp to bourbon to thoroughbreds -- in person.  Unfortunately, pandemic restrictions mandated the meeting go virtual for health and safety reasons.

The online meeting started off with remarks from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (USDA) Sonny Perdue.  Secretary Perdue discussed the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), Farmers to Families Food Box program, and trade relations with China, which he feels are on track and proceeding as expected.

Dr. Mike Strain, Louisiana commissioner of agriculture and forestry, thanked Perdue for his tireless efforts during this unprecedented time and inquired about including crawfish producers in the next CFAP.  "In Louisiana, we have 24,000 acres of crawfish and those producers took an 80 percent hit to their industry this year.  Aquaculture is big business in Louisiana.  The majority of the fresh seafood consumed in America is from Louisiana farms or caught off our coast in the Gulf of Mexico.  It is imperative that we recognize the importance of this industry and assist these farmers as we are assisting all other aspects of production agriculture."

Perdue agreed this needed to be addressed along with other industries, such as horticulture and seafood, that were not included in the original program.  "If they're farmers, we (USDA) think they're ours and we want to take care of them," he said.

Next, a panel of speakers including Dr. Will Snell, agricultural economist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture; Bill Johnson, president and CEO of Farm Credit Mid-America; and Joseph Sisk, a Kentucky corn and hemp producer, discussed the state of the agricultural economy.

Snell estimated that 30-50 percent of farm income this year will likely come from government assistance.  Johnson, who offered his opinion from a lender's viewpoint, added that one positive during this time is that land values continue to hold steady.  Sisk believes that the effects of the current ag downturn will be harder psychologically than that of the 1980s because of the higher input costs.  He also said that Market Facilitation Payments (MFP) payments are essential, and if they were removed, the agriculture industry would have huge financial stress.

The meeting also included National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA) updates, as well as an EPA update.

Region 4 EPA Administrator Mary Walker discussed the efforts the EPA has taken recently to test and approve effective disinfectants against coronavirus while also working closely with U.S. Customs to prevent ineffective, imitation disinfectants from entering the country.  In online markets, there has been an increase in items claiming to protect the wearer from being exposed to the virus or claiming to contain an effective disinfecting agent when they don't.

At the close of the meeting, Commissioner Quarles passed the virtual gavel on to Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward.

"I'm honored to be the new president of SASDA, and am excited to welcome everyone to Arkansas, often called the the rice and duck capital of the world, for next year's annual meeting," said Ward.

1K Cebu City PUJ drivers receive 50 kilos of rice

Sunstar2 June 2020
Description: 1K Cebu City PUJ drivers receive 50 kilos of rice
THE Cebu City Government distributed on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, a sack of 50 kilos of rice to each of the 1,000 public utility jeepney drivers whose livelihood has been disrupted by the crisis brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Mayor Edgardo Labella said he decided to distribute the rice assistance after he learned that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) did not allow old jeepneys to ply.
Transportation Assistant Secretary Mark Richmund de Leon said the virus that causes Covid-19 can quickly spread inside old public utility jeepneys.
Cebu City is under general community quarantine (GCQ) on June 1-15, 2020. During the entire period of GCQ, buses and modern jeepneys are allowed to transport passengers on a reduced capacity.
Original plan
City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. said the original plan was to distribute 25 kilos of rice, but the mayor insisted on giving 50 kilos of rice to each of the jeepney drivers.
The distribution happened during a meeting with the drivers outside the command center of the Cebu City Hall.
Jeepney driver Louie Baylosis thanked the mayor for considering their plight.
“Lisod gyud kay ang amo gisaligan ug gibuhi sa among pamilya mao ra gyud ang pag-drive (We fell on hard times because my family rely on and live off only on me driving a jeepney),” he said.
Baylosis gladly received the rice assistance, saying he needed it to feed his three children, albeit for a short period of time. (PAC)

Delegation thanked Chhattisgarh Chief Minister for resuming works in 90%of the MSME sector in state
June 2, 2020


Raipur: Delegation of industrial organizations from Bilaspur led by Mr. Atal Shrivastava paid courtesy call on Chief Minister Mr. Bhupesh Baghel at his residence office yesterday evening. Delegation included office-bearers of District Industry Union of Bilaspur and The Federation of Rice Millers. The delegation members thanked Chief Minister for resumption of works in 90% ofthe MSME sector of the state and that of 60% production works. They also praised Chhattisgarh Government’s works for prevention and control of corona infection in the state. Delegation also shared the problems being faced by industries of the state. Mr. Baghel assured the delegation of taking necessary steps to redress the problems. On the occasion, Mr. Ramavtar Agrawal, Mr. Harish Kedia, Mr. Arvind Gard, Mr. Abhishek Sultaniya and other officials were present.

Eating whole grains helps cut diabetes risk, says new study: Know what to include in your diet

As a diabetic, there are many foods that you need to avoid while certain other foods help you bring your blood sugar levels down.

By: Jahnavi Sarma   | | Updated: June 3, 2020 1:18 pm

According to a new study, eating more of high-quality carbohydrates, especially from whole grains, lower the risk for type 2 diabetes. @Shutterstock
Diabetes is a disease where your body is either not able to use the insulin hormone effectively or your pancreas do not produce enough of this hormone. It is a metabolic disease that causes your blood sugar levels to rise above normal levels. Diabetes is today a global problem and millions of people suffer from this disease. Other than taking medications, you can also deal with this condition with lifestyle modifications and dietary changes. As a diabetic, there are many foods that you need to avoid while certain other foods help you bring your blood sugar levels down. Also Read - Swollen foot is a common complication of diabetes: Know how to deal with it naturally
According to a new study, eating more of high-quality carbohydrates, especially from whole grains, lower the risk for type 2 diabetes. Researchers from Harvard University in the US looked at whether this effect is different for high-quality carbohydrates and low-quality carbohydrates, which include refined grains, sugary foods and potatoes. Also Read - New smart patch to help you manage diabetes better

About the study

For the purpose of the study, researchers analysed data from three studies that followed health professionals in the US over time. These included 69,949 women from the Nurses’ Health Study, 90,239 women from the Nurses’ Health Study 2 and 40,539 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Collectively, the studies represented over four million years of follow-up, during which almost 12,000 cases of type 2 diabetes cases were documented. Also Read - Planning to party? Diet tips for diabetes on Christmas

The findings of this study

During the course of the study, researchers saw a lower risk of type 2 diabetes when high-quality carbohydrates replaced calories from saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, animal protein and vegetable protein.
They also found that replacing low-quality carbohydrates with saturated fats, but not with other nutrients, was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
They say that these results highlight the importance of distinguishing between carbohydrates from high- and low- quality sources when examining diabetes risk.

Rice grown in the Sharjah desert promises bright farming future

Research in partnership with experts from South Korea reaps impressive crop yields in early trials
Rice is a demanding crop to grow. It typically requires specific conditions and flooded paddies but a group of scientists in the UAE are learning to turn the dry deserts of Sharjah into land capable of nurturing this global staple.
It is hoped the joint project between UAE University scientists and South Korean experts could lead the way for similar initiatives that will reduce the country's reliance on imported food.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced some rice growing nations to restrict the amount of produce they export.
If successful on a large scale, this groundbreaking project has the potential to shape the future of agriculture as it can be replicated
Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Ministry of Climate Change and Environment
To counter the growing food security threat, local scientists are using the latest technology to grow 763 kilograms of rice in a 1,000 square metre plot of desert.
Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said the impressive results could change agriculture across the arid region.
“The innovative venture is the first of its kind in the Middle East,” he said.
“If successful on a large scale, this groundbreaking project has the potential to shape the future of agriculture as it can be replicated.
"Rice is one of the most important foods that is consumed on a daily basis in this area.
“We are focusing on driving innovation and exploring agritech in growing the crops that are in high demand.”
Description: Dr Al Zeyoudi and Kwon Yongwoo, Republic of Korea ambassador to the UAE, visit the rice field in Sharjah. Courtesy: Ministry of Climate Change and Environment Dr Al Zeyoudi and Kwon Yongwoo, Republic of Korea ambassador to the UAE, visit the rice field in Sharjah. Courtesy: Ministry of Climate Change and Environment
After extensive testing, experts selected Asemi (Japonica) and FL478 (Indica) rice varieties to grow because of their ability to tolerate heat, salinity and poor soil conditions.
Seeds were sowed in November last year and harvested in three stages between May 5 and May 30.
The crops had a growing cycle of 180 days and were watered via an underground drip irrigation system to reduce cost and wastage.
The harvested rice will only be used commercially once tested to ensure compliance with standard specifications.
Despite the UAE being in the top 10 global rice importers and relying on shipping and air freight for 90 per cent of its food, serious pandemic related disruption has so far been avoided.
Description: UAE University scientists and experts from South Korea are growing two types of rice in the Sharjah desert. Courtesy: Ministry of Climate Change and EnvironmentUAE University scientists and experts from South Korea are growing two types of rice in the Sharjah desert. Courtesy: Ministry of Climate Change and Environment
The impressive rice growing results at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment’s Al Dhaid research centre have added hope for other agricultural innovations.
“We seek to make the most of our resources and find the crops and methods that are suitable for our desert climate,” said Dr Al Zeyoudi.
“We have to target the crops that are in high demand locally. This is one of the things we’ve noticed during the pandemic.
“We are exploring and adopting more innovative solutions in every phase.”

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The results will provide a baseline for other research programmes and undertakings related to food and agriculture.
The rice project was completed in partnership with the Rural Development Administration (RDA) of the Republic of Korea.
Other initiatives in the pipeline to encourage more self sufficiency include smart greenhouse projects, vertical farms that grow crops inside climate-controlled facilities and the control of date palm pests.
In March, at the height of the pandemic in Asia, Vietnam announced a ban on rice exports to ensure the country had sufficient foods to cope.
Quotas on white rice exports from the country have since increased to 500,000 tonnes a month.
It was a warning to nations reliant on imported goods to become more self-sufficient in the post-pandemic world.
South Korea will continue to work with the UAE on developing further water-saving technologies to maximise crop growth.
“Korea has long experience and cutting-edge technologies in the field of agriculture and food security, which it is ready to share with the UAE,” said Kwon Yongwoo, Republic of Korea ambassador to the UAE.
"The two countries have great potential to become ideal partners in agriculture and food security, just as they are in many other areas.”

Farms in the UAE find a way to thrive amid pandemic:

Farmers pick out ripe eggplants from the field. All photos by Victor Besa / The National
Updated: June 3, 2020 02:02 PM

Ensure procurement at MSP: Congress to TS govt
Congress leader Marri Shashidhar Reddy demands compensation for farmers for the "heavy" deduction in paddy by rice millers and for the losses due to damage in the recent rains
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By AuthorTelanganaToday  |  Published: 1st Jun 2020  9:41 pm

Hyderabad: The Congress in Telangana State has urged the State government to put in place a mechanism by which farmers will be able to sell unprocured paddy and maize crops at Minimum Support Price “as announced by Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao.”

In a memorandum submitted to Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar here on Monday, chairman of the party’s Covid-19 Task Force Marri Shashidhar Reddy also demanded compensation for farmers for the “heavy” deduction in paddy by rice millers and for the losses due to damage in the recent rains.

Stating that the Congress does not see any scope for improvement in procurement even after the last date for procurement was extended from May 31 to June 8, the Congress leader, quoting media reports, said the Chief Minister had announced at a media conference on March 29 that the State government would procure the entire yield at MSP announced by the Centre.

“The promised quantities of paddy and maize have not been procured even after opening more centre this year,” he said, and alleged that TRS functionaries were dominating at procurement centres and that the procurement system was flawed.

“As against the normal deduction of 1.5 to two kg per quintal of paddy, miller were forcing and even blackmailing farmers that unless they accepted a deduction of six to 10 kg per quintal, they would not unload the paddy at the mills,” Shashidhar Reddy said, and sought a categorical assurance from the government on these issues.

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Analysis: Pros and cons of Trade Ministerial Regulation No. 40/2020

  • Haris Eko Faruddin
Jakarta   /   Wed, June 3 2020   /  11:29 am
The government has issued policies related to export and import activities by sea. The policies are contained in Trade Ministerial Regulation No. 40/2020 concerning provisions for the use of national sea transportation and national insurance for the export and import of certain goods. In this regulation, it states that exporters who export coal and/or crude palm oil (CPO) and importers who import rice and/or goods for the procurement of government goods are required to use national sea transportation and national insurance.This provision is specifically for sea transportation with a carrying capacity smaller than 15,000 deadweight tonnage (DWT). As for insurance, it is compulsory to use national insurance where national insurance must be administered by the national insurance company and/or government-established export financing institutions that have received a list of certificates fro...

Lagos-based rice mill project reaches ‘80 percent’ completion


The 32 metric-ton-per hour rice mill under construction at Imota in Lagos has reached 80 percent completion from 35 percent in May 2019, the state government has said, with construction expected to be finished before the end of the year.
When operational, the mill would ensure a steady supply of about 2.4 million freshly processed 50 kilograms bags of rice per annum, the state commissioner for agriculture Gbolahan Lawal said at a recent ministerial press briefing.
That output would greatly reduce the need to import rice from surrounding states and countries, solving to an extent the food supply needs of the state. “The increasing population in Lagos has put pressure on the State’s food security, supply mechanism, and available infrastructure, hence the need to prepare adequately to meet the challenges of upscaling food production cannot be over-emphasized,” Lawal said.
The rice mill also serves as a strategic project as regards unemployment, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has led to massive job losses. Upon completion, more than 250,000 jobs are expected to be created in both the upstream and downstream sectors of the rice value chain.
Local farmer groups in Lagos State and other nearby states will be integrated into the mill operations when it commences, Lawal said further. This is to ensure an adequate supply of paddy to the mill for smooth operations, as well as the provision of inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation facilities, where applicable, to the farmers.
“To meet the Paddy requirement of the Mill, we have undertaken a backward integration in the form of collaboration with other States like South-Western States, Kwara, Sokoto, Benue, Borno and Kebbi,” the commissioner said. “This will be done leveraging on the Anchor Borrower Scheme of the Central Bank of Nigeria with the Rice Mill as the off-taker of the products.”
In addition to benefiting small-scale farmers, for most of whom rice is an essential cash crop from which they get significant income, this will help to enhance food security in Nigeria’s commercial city, while the broader objective is to ensure that the state can produce “at least 25 percent of the food consumed by residents of the State before the end of year 2025,″ Lawal said.
More so, the state project keys into the broader national goal of the current administration to achieve self-sufficiency in the production and consumption of rice. Nigeria is the continent’s leading consumer of rice, one of the largest producers of rice in Africa and simultaneously one of the largest rice importers in the world. 
In 2015, the central bank of Nigeria banned the use of its foreign exchange to pay for rice imports and has supported loans of at least $130 million to help small-holders boost output. The regulator also placed a ban on rice imports across land borders, adding a hefty 70 percent tariffs on imports coming through ports.
The government last August then closed the country’s land borders altogether to stamp out rampant smuggling, often from neighboring Benin, with rice being one of the main targets. The measures saw Nigeria’s rice output go up to 4.9 million tonnes in 2019 – up 60 percent from 2013 – according to agricultural data firm Gro Intelligence, a notable achievement but still not enough to satisfy the 7 million tonnes of rice Nigerians consume yearly.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects imports of 2.4 million tonnes of rice for this year while an estimated 800,000 metric tons is suspected to enter the country illegally on an annual basis. In Lagos meanwhile, supermarket shelves remain stocked with several imported rice brands.
Photograph — Temie Giwa-Tubosun, Founder of Lifebank.
Funkola Odeleye and Temie Giwa-Tubosun have been shortlisted as two of three African entrepreneurs who could stand a chance to win the sum of $100,000 in grant at this year’s edition of the Cartier Women’s Initiative.
The initiative, which was founded in 2006, has helped women over the years to reach their full potential by shining a light on their achievements while providing them with the necessary financial, social and human capital support in growing their businesses and leadership skills. It is open to women-run and women-owned businesses across the globe with the aim of ensuring a strong and sustainable social and environmental impact as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Owing to the social impact of their businesses within Nigeria, Funke Odeleye and Giwa-Tubosun were among the selected 21 finalists from a pool of 1,200 applications from 162 countries across 7 regions. A winner will be selected from each region and take home the sum of $100,000 in prize money, whereas the second and third runner-ups will receive the sum of $30,000.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative is a joint partnership project initiated by luxury giant Cartier, the Women’s Forum, McKinsey & Company, and INSEAD business school.
Funkola Odeleye is the Co-founder and CEO at DIYlaw, a legal technology company committed to empowering Nigerian entrepreneurs through the provision of accessible and affordable legal services and free legal and business resources. She is also the Corporate-Commercial and Intellectual Property lead at The Longe Practice LP (TLP), an entrepreneur-focused law practice.
Funkola has a Masters in Finance and Financial Law from the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London in addition to her LLB from the Lagos State University and BL from the Nigerian Law School. Her legal experience prior to founding TLP and DIYlaw cuts across capital markets, investment advisory, compliance, and securities. In addition, she is an Obama Leader, having been chosen as a 2019 Obama Africa Leader and also an Innovating Justice Fellow of “The Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law” (HiiL).
“With our goals aimed at reducing unemployment in Nigeria by 50 percent by 2030, DIYLaw’s services and partnerships at the end of 2019 had created more than 120,000 jobs in Nigeria. Every job increases an individual’s financial independence, provides a chance for stability, and in some cases even offers the possibility of moving off the streets” she said.
Temie Giwa-Tubosun, also shortlisted as one of the finalists, is the founder of LifeBank, a medical distribution company with the mission aimed at helping hospitals find critical supplies and deliver them in the right condition and on time within three cities in Nigeria.
Since it’s founding in 2016, LifeBank has consistently ensured the timely delivery of vital medical supplies and blood to hospitals in its service area within 55 minutes day or night, thereby relieving doctors of the logistical stress associated with locating blood and giving them ample time to focus on treating patients. The company has transported more than 20,000 units of blood and other medical products, served 450 hospitals, engaged 5,823 donors, and saved over 6,757 lives.
LifeBank’s ambitious mission is to save a million lives across Africa in 10 years and to reach all of Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and South America to deliver critical supplies around the clock, eventually becoming a profitable public company.
Seven laureates out of 14 finalists from the 2020 edition of the Cartier women’s initiative will be announced early June. The laureates and finalists will all benefit from financial advisory services, strategy coaching, media visibility, and international networking opportunities, as well as a place on an INSEAD executive education programme.




Rice Shipments of 100000 Tonnes Cleared at Iran Ports since March


June 2, 2020

Gurneel Kaur

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Rice consignments imported from India, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey, and the UAE were stuck at Iran customs for months. Since March 2020, rice shipments of 100000 tonnes cleared at Iran ports.

Rice Shipments at Iran ports

More than 114,000 tons of rice were awaiting completion of clearance procedures in the customs terminals of Chabahar, Zahedan, Shahid Rajaee and other ports. The latest figures released by the Statistical Center of Iran reveal that the country’s per capita consumption is 35 kilograms. Iran produces around 2.9 million tonnes of rice in 2019-20, marking a 45% increase as against the last year. Further, the report shows that Mazandaran (38%) and Gilan (33%) contribute the highest to the overall rice production. Iran imports over 1.4 million metric tonnes of rice annually.

Increase in Import of Essential Commodities

The DG of the Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization of Iran stated that cargo ships carrying basic commodities (sugar, rice, wheat, and corn) have docked at the Chabahar port since March 20. The arrivals during the seven weeks comprised 421,298 tons of essential commodities as against 27,500 tons of previous year. Further, he emphasized the uninterrupted supply of commodities through Chabahar port to Sistan and Balouchestan amid the adverse effects of the pandemic. Besides, the deputy director of the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran highlighted the importance of the city port. He said that Iranian port equipped with strategic loading and unloading equipment that offers special discounts on port charges.

Revenue for Indian Basmati Rice Industry Weakens

Vice President and Sector Head, ICRA stated that the Iranian government’s support for imports of Indian basmati is sceptical. Imports of basmati rice fell due to the reduced availability of subsidised foreign currency to Iranian private importers. Also, depletion of reserves rupee payment mechanism over the next few months remains a significant concern for trade with Iran.

12000 Tonnes of Rice Imported via Bushehr Port

Mohammad Shakibi-Nasab, an official with the Bushehr Ports and Maritimes Organization, revealed that around 12,000 tons of rice imported into Iran via Bushehr Port from India. Also, about 45,000 tons of rice imported via the same port in the previous year. However, an exporter confirmed piling of around 5,00,000 tonnes of rice at customs terminals. This was due to complications associated with the provision of foreign currency from the export earnings of non-oil products.

Rise in Import of Essential Goods via Khomeini Port

The import of non-oil products increased by 15% in April and reached 1.79 million tons mark. Further, the country imported 1.42 million tons of essential goods to regulate the market during the holy month of Ramadan. Overall, Iran bought 25.09 million tons of essential goods worth close to USD 15.5 billion during the last fiscal year (March 2019-20).

In all, Iran’s port operations have resumed amid the pandemic.

Tags: Basmati Rice, Bushehr port, Chabahar, Chabahar port, gilan, icra, import of basmati, import of rice, Iran ports, Khomeini Port, mazandaran, Mohammad Shakibi-Nasab, pandemic, Rice import, Shahid Rajaee, shipments, Zahedan

Fighting off disease? It's gut instinct: Dr MICHAEL MOSLEY's guide to helping you fight back against coronavirus

Wednesday, Jun 3rd 2020 5PM 38°C 8PM 35°C 5-Day Forecast

This week in the Daily Mail, Dr Michael Mosley is setting out a health revolution that will put you on course to staying one step ahead of coronavirus as lockdown eases. 
In exclusive extracts from his new book Covid-19, he will help you get in the best shape to fight the virus. Today, he explains why having a healthy gut is crucial to your wellbeing.
Description: This week in the Daily Mail, Dr Michael Mosley (above) is setting out a health revolution that will put you on course to staying one step ahead of coronavirus as lockdown eases
This week in the Daily Mail, Dr Michael Mosley (above) is setting out a health revolution that will put you on course to staying one step ahead of coronavirus as lockdown eases
Like any army, your immune system needs feeding to work efficiently and destroy any potentially dangerous invaders such as the coronavirus.
Eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals is key here. But did you know you also need to include foods that will support the trillions of microbes living in your gut?
The ‘gut microbiome’ is the scientific name for the 2-3 lb of microbes that live in our intestines, and today, in the second part of a groundbreaking series from my new book Covid-19, I will reveal why gut bacteria are so important when it comes to protecting you from the life-threatening complications of Covid-19. 
A healthy microbiome should be diverse, but sadly, our modern way of eating is decimating the populations that live inside us.
One of the problems is, the more limited the range of foods you eat, the more limited your bacterial diversity is likely to be. Many of us eat such a narrow range of foods that our gut bacteria are forced to exist on a restricted diet. And it doesn’t make them happy.
Eating lots of processed food, junk food, and unnecessary doses of antibiotics, has laid waste to our microbiome. The emulsifiers added to processed foods in order to extend their shelf life are a problem, too. These detergent derivatives have been shown to reduce microbial richness.
This couldn’t be more important right now because studies have shown our microbiome plays a vital role in the proper training and functioning of your immune system.
Having a diverse microbiome is good because it means you have a wide range of different microbes in your gut and the ‘bad’ ones, that do things like encourage inflammation, are in the minority
I’m a big fan of a Mediterranean-style diet, which is rich in healthy natural fats, nuts and fish, as well as vegetables and legumes packed with disease-fighting vitamins and minerals.
Not only does it taste great, but it is regularly voted by health professionals as the healthiest diet on the planet.
There is so much scientific evidence that adopting this lifestyle will cut your risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, depression and dementia. But now we also know it will improve the workings of your immune system as well.
One of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so super healthy is because it boosts levels of the ‘good’ microbes in your gut, which play an important role in the body’s immune response to infectious pathogens such as coronaviruses.

Stock up on seaweed

Edible seaweeds (sold as dried nori sheets) or coastal plant samphire, are excellent prebiotics packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and omega-3 fatty acids.
Studies showed that people who took a daily seaweed capsule over six weeks saw an increase in 15 different types of ‘friendly’ bacteria in their gut.
The easiest way to incorporate seaweed into your meal is to sprinkle dried nori sheets into soups and stews and over salads to give them a tangy, salty taste.
Or you can snack on mini sheets of dried seaweed, like Itsu sea- weed thins, which are low calorie but high in vitamin B12, iodine, protein and fibre, making them the perfect snack for your good gut bacteria.

Studies showed that people who took a daily seaweed capsule over six weeks saw an increase in 15 different types of ‘friendly’ bacteria in their gut [File photo]

One reason is the impact that these ‘good’ bacteria have on chronic inflammation. Inflammation isn’t always a bad thing. If you cut your finger the inflammatory process makes it feel hot and swollen as your body repairs the damage and keeps infection out.
However, as we get older, inflammation can start to spread throughout the body, becoming chronic and widespread. When that happens it can damage your DNA, scar your blood vessels, age your skin and kill off healthy cells. It is linked to a whole range of diseases, including heart disease, cancer and dementia.
But a healthy diet can prevent much of this happening, and one of the ways it does this is by feeding the ‘good’ bacteria that live in your gut. They, in turn, are very good at turning fibre and other nutrients in your diet into chemicals called short-chain fatty acids (SCFs), which reduce inflammation in the body.
If you are overweight, have type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma or arthritis — any of the very typical 21st-century diseases — then you are very likely to have chronic inflammation.
Unfortunately, this means your immune system will also have become less effective. 
Not only will your army of fighters be slow to react to a Covid-19 infection, and ill-equipped to fight it, but chronic inflammation means your immune system could also be more likely to overreact and cause very serious damage instead.
Most people who get Covid-19 get either no symptoms or experience a relatively mild illness which can be effectively treated at home. But the complications that lead to an ambulance trip to hospital, and a possible stay in intensive care, can be caused by a malfunction of the immune system called a ‘cytokine storm’.
This typically happens within ten days of first noticing symptoms. If your body has not managed to subdue the virus by then, it may instead start to overreact and attack healthy tissue as well as cells infected with the virus. This can lead to extensive damage to the heart, lungs and other organs. It can ultimately lead to death.
We now know that people who already have chronic inflammation are more likely to suffer from a ‘cytokine storm’. Which could help explain why overweight people, and those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, are more likely to die.

Before embarking on a diet packed with vegetables, pulses, wholegrains and seaweed, it’s a good idea to assess the state of your microbiome [File photo]
This is also why a healthy mix of gut microbes is so important. The ‘good’ guys produce chemicals that reduce chronic inflammation and so help reduce the risk of a ‘cytokine storm’. 
They are like firefighters who help put out the blazes that would otherwise destroy your body. But, be warned, there are also plenty of ‘bad’ microbes living in your guts — these are more like arsonists setting fires.
If you haven’t been eating a healthy diet and established a good mix of anti-inflammatory gut bacteria, there’s a risk your immune system lacks the resilience and diversity that is required to establish balanced immune responses.
The importance of a healthy microbiome was illustrated by a recent study of more than 900 people who had Covid-19, some of whom developed severe symptoms, while in others the effects were mild.
The researchers found that studying the patients’ microbiome was one of the best ways of predicting who would get seriously ill and who would not.
As well as reducing chronic inflammation, a healthy, diverse microbiome will also help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your blood sugar levels down. 
The mix of microbes in your gut can affect how much energy your body extracts from the food you eat; they generate their own hunger signals; they may help decide which foods you crave; they also help to determine how much your blood sugar spikes in response to a meal.
The link is clear when you know that people who are seriously overweight or have type 2 diabetes are at twice the risk of becoming seriously ill if they get Covid-19.
So now, more than ever, you want to be sure your gut microbiome is fighting for you, rather than against you.

Switch to a sunshine diet

The good news is that you can change the balance of your microbiome in a very short period of time by switching to a Mediterranean diet.
This will not only bolster your immune system by improving your microbiome, but it means you will be getting the full spread of vitamins and minerals that your body also needs to fight the virus.
Here’s how:
  • Eat natural healthy fats in the form of real food, such as olive oil, salmon, tuna, full-fat dairy, avocado, nuts and seeds. These natural fats are also good for the waist and the heart, and will keep you feeling full for longer. 
  • Eat decent amounts of protein such as oily fish (salmon, mackerel), seafood, chicken, some red meat, eggs, tofu, beans, pulses, dairy and nuts. You need at least 50-60g of protein a day, every day. As you get older, you need more. Restrict your intake of processed meats such as sausages, bacon and salami, as most contain high levels of salt, nitrates and other preservatives which your gut bacteria don’t love.
  • Eat plenty of dark green and coloured veg. These are very low in calories and contain many essential vitamins and nutrients. They also contain lots of fibre, which the ‘good’ microbes in your gut will benefit from. Experiment with different types of fruit or vegetables (your gut bacteria loves variety). 
  • Swap white pasta and rice for wholegrains and pulses which are rich in fibre. Choose multigrain, seeded or rye bread over white. Again, the good bacteria in your gut will thrive on the fibre in these foods. If you’re trying to lose weight, you should keep your intake of carbs down.
  • Avoid snacking between meals or late-night grazing. Grazing stops fat burning. If you must, snack on non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cucumber or celery, or a small handful of nuts or a small piece of cheese. Fruit is not a good choice, particularly when you are trying to lose weight. ÷ Cut right back on sugar or sweeteners.
  • Reduce your intake of processed food, junk food, ready meals and takeaways, tempting though they may be during these stressful times. Eating lots of sugary or processed foods will just reinforce and feed the ‘bad’, pro-inflammatory microbes that live in your gut.
  • Drink healthily. Plenty of black tea, fruit tea, black coffee and water. As for alcohol, an occasional glass of red wine with a meal is OK, but don’t overdo it. 

How good is your digestion?

Before embarking on a diet packed with vegetables, pulses, wholegrains and seaweed, it’s a good idea to assess the state of your microbiome.
This quiz will tell you if you’re likely to have a healthy population of ‘good’ bacteria which may just need supporting (with meals packed with prebiotic foods) and topping up (with probiotic foods, such as live yoghurt or sauerkraut).
It could also indicate that your microbiome is in poor shape, dominated by pro-inflammatory microbes which might be driving lethargy, weight gain, mood swings and even health problems.
Having a diverse microbiome is good because it means you have a wide range of different microbes in your gut and the ‘bad’ ones, that do things like encourage inflammation, are in the minority. 
But problems occur, and your immune system becomes compromised if one group — say, the ones who thrive on junk food — start to dominate. These bad guys can swiftly become much more influential and, by producing chemical signals, induce anxiety, cravings and inflammation.
If you have recurrent gut problems, you might suspect your microbiome isn’t happy, but often you have become so accustomed to being out of kilter that mild digestive discomfort — and the low mood, pain and bloating that come with it — has become just ‘normal’.
Take this quiz to find out. If you answer yes, that counts as one point. Add up your totals then discover, in the panel on the right, what this says about your gut health.

Sleep and weight gain

An unhappy microbiome can affect your ability to sleep well, and can make you prone to weight gain, too. 
Poor sleep means you produce more of the stress hormone, cortisol, and more of the hunger hormones that drive appetite. 
You are more likely to eat badly because poor sleep cranks up your desire for sugary carbohydrates and high-fat snacks, which, in turn, encourage a shift towards the growth of ‘bad’ microbes in your gut.
  • I don’t sleep well.
  • I rarely seem to be able to shake off feelings of tiredness.
  • My weight has steadily crept up over the years.
  • Losing weight is a battle.

Poor sleep means you produce more of the stress hormone, cortisol, and more of the hunger hormones that drive appetite [File photo]

Mood barometer

The microbiome also influences our brains. In fact, a network of neurons in your gut communicates directly with the brain via a superfast ‘broadband’ connection called the vagus nerve. 
Studies show that people who suffer from depression and anxiety often have gut problems. 
Changing your diet will increase levels of healthy bacteria, which then produce chemicals that help improve mood. 
These include serotonin and GABA (a neurotransmitter that acts in a similar way to the anti-anxiety drug, valium).
  • I can be pretty moody at times.
  • I am prone to anxiety.
  • I get brain fog and sometimes find it difficult to think straight.

Digestion troubles

Having an unbalanced microbiome, with too many ‘bad’ bacteria producing chemicals that help inflame the lining of the gut, is called dysbiosis. 
Common symptoms include constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, fatigue, anxiety and depression.
  • I frequently get gut pain.
  • I have irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Bloating and trapped wind are problems for me.
  • I frequently have constipation or diarrhoea.
  • I’m prone to indigestion.

Childhood links

Studies show that children who are born by Caesarean section and those who are not breastfed as babies can grow up with a less diverse population of gut bacteria. 
You inherit your gut bacteria from your mother, gulping them down as you travel along the birth canal and out into a bright new world. 
If you are born by Caesarean section this doesn’t happen.
Similarly, breastfeeding naturally introduces you to a wide variety of bacteria from your mother. 
Additionally, a restricted diet of processed foods will lead to a limited microbiome population in later life.
  • I was born by C-section.
  • I wasn’t breastfed.
  • I have always been a fussy eater.
  • I was brought up on a diet mainly of junk/processed food.

Studies show that children who are born by Caesarean section and those who are not breastfed as babies can grow up with a less diverse population of gut bacteria [File photo]

Medical issues

As well as a poor diet, being stressed, taking too many antibiotics and certain other medications can all cause inflammation in the gut wall, which protects your body from all the microbes that enter your body, along with food. Inflammation, in turn, can weaken the gut wall leading to ‘leaky gut syndrome’.
This compromises your ability to absorb the nutrients in your diet and allows bacteria and other toxins to escape from your gut into your blood causing all sorts of health problems, compromised immunity and skin problems.
  • I have taken antibiotics multiple times. 
  • I have raised blood sugar levels.
  • I am prone to more colds than most people.
  • I am prone to skin rashes or thrush.
  • My skin is bad (eczema, psoriasis, acne) 

Eating habits

The drugs given to the animals we eat to encourage them to gain weight, and the emulsifiers added to processed foods in order to extend their shelf life, combine to reduce microbial richness. 
If you eat fast, and on the move, it is likely you are eating a lot of junk.
  • I’m not great with vegetables and rarely eat three portions a day. 
  • I eat very quickly and often on the run.
  • I often eat in front of the TV.
  • I have no time to cook from scratch so have to rely on processed food. 

Food preferences

Good gut bacteria thrive on variety, but 75 per cent of the world’s food comes from just 12 plants and five animal species. 
And most families eat from a limited repertoire of meals with a boringly small range of ingredients — doing this will really limit your microbial diversity.
Because the microbiome can influence how much your blood sugar levels rise when you eat, this can have an impact on cravings and appetite control. Some bacteria thrive on sugar, others love fat. 
They can manipulate behaviour and mood, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good. 
They even manufacture a range of chemicals that are strikingly similar to the main hunger hormones that control our appetite.
  • I tend to have the same breakfast every morning. 
  • I like the same sandwiches for lunch every day.
  • Dinner for me will be one of less than ten options.
  • I stick to the same supermarket shopping list each week.
  • I have strong cravings for coffee/sugar/alcohol.
  • I’m a chocaholic. 
Good gut bacteria thrive on variety, but 75 per cent of the world’s food comes from just 12 plants and five animal species [File photo]

Now find out what your score means

Zero to five points
Congratulations! You and your gut bacteria are clearly a happy team. 
Keep up the good digestive work — continue experimenting with different foods and try adding fermented foods into your diet which are rich in probiotics, living bacteria.
Although there is no direct evidence that they will benefit your immunity, they are a useful way of boosting your ‘good’ bacteria. One note of caution: if you have not eaten fermented foods before, start with small amounts or you might get some gastrointestinal symptoms initially, such as bloating or gas.
Five to ten points
You probably feel OK most of the time, but it’s probable your biome isn’t as happy as it could be. 
Eating a wider variety of vegetables and other gut-friendly foods will help build the armies of ‘good’ bacteria.
Ensure there’s more colour on your plate. Colour is a great indicator of nutritional diversity. 
That’s because the pigments plants produce not only give them their colour, scent and flavour, but also means they contain hundreds of different bioactive compounds known as phytonutrients.
These phytonutrients tend to be concentrated in the skins of fruits and vegetables. Their role in the plant is, among other things, to protect it against fungi and bacteria. But they also have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Phytonutrients in fruit and vegetables come in a range of colours — green, yellow-orange, red, blue-purple and white. The key is to eat a wide variety of colours, aiming for two or more of each per day.
Over ten points
If you scored ten or more in my quiz, there’s a chance your gut might be struggling. You probably know if things aren’t quite right. 
It might be griping stomach pain, or bloating, occasional nausea or frequent trips to the bathroom (or not going often enough).
The lining of your intestine can be inflamed, or hyper-sensitive and vulnerable to damage by infections, some medications, an overactive immune system (which can lead to conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease) and a poor diet. If you have major gut problems talk to your GP first.
But evidence is emerging that a change to a Mediterranean-based diet that encourages the growth of ‘good’ bacteria, might help matters. 
We know, for example, that as well as shielding your gut from attack, some of the ‘good’ gut bacteria produce chemicals which actually REDUCE inflammation and help to reinforce your gut wall.
You should always discuss any gut-related symptoms with your GP (to exclude the possibility of a serious illness). 
If you suspect you might have problems or dietary sensitivities, I recommend you try a ‘remove and repair’ protocol for a few weeks to allow any gut inflammation to calm down before launching into a more gut-friendly diet that will help bolster your immunity.

Remove and repair

Before bombarding your gut with more vegetables and pulses than it is used to, give it the chance to heal first.
One good way is to cut out any potential ‘irritants’ from your diet, then gradually re-introduce them to allow your ‘good’ gut bacteria to re-populate.
Troublesome foods include gluten, pulses, milk, eggs, soya, coffee and alcohol.
When your symptoms have settled, slowly re-introduce trigger foods one at a time with a gap of at least three days.
Keep a food and symptom diary to track your body’s response to foods so you know which ones to target.

Like any army, your immune system needs feeding to work efficiently and destroy any potentially dangerous invaders such as the coronavirus. Eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals is key here [File photo]


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Now try these gut-friendly recipes

Asian coleslaw with leftover chicken

This brightly coloured dish includes lots of gut-friendly ingredients. You can use leftover chicken or poach or grill a chicken breast and shred it on top when cooled.
Serves 4
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 1 small white cabbage
  • ½ small red cabbage
  • 1 mango, cut into slices
  • Couple handfuls leftover cooked chicken
For the dressing
  • 2 tbsp tamari sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Thumb-size piece of root ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp olive oill
  • Handful of coriander and half a lime, to serve
To assemble the salad, cut the carrots into fine strips with a vegetable peeler or grate them quite thickly into a large bowl. 
Discard the outer leaves and the cores from the cabbages and shred the leaves as finely as you can. 
Add them to the carrots, then mix in the mango slices and cooked chicken. Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl. 
Pour it over the salad and toss everything together. Serve with fresh coriander leaves and a squeeze of lime.

Asian coleslaw with leftover chicken

Goan fish curry with seaweed & turmeric

An aromatic curry packed with health-boosting nutrients, including seaweed. Cod is rich in selenium, iodine and choline, while turmeric, garlic and ginger have anti-microbial properties.
Serves 4
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cm piece root ginger, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 mild or medium red chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 tbsp live (raw) apple cider vinegar
  • 400ml tin full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 large tomato, finely diced
  • 500 g firm white fish (e.g. cod, pollock, haddock or hake) in chunks
  • 8-10 g nori sushi sheets
  • Handful fresh coriander
  • Cauliflower rice or brown basmati rice, and green vegetables to serve
Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan and fry the spices for 1-2 minutes. Blend the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli with the apple cider vinegar to make a paste. 
Add this to the pan containing the spices and cook for 2 minutes, until the oil separates, then add the coconut milk and the tomato and bring to the boil. 
Tip in the fish and simmer gently until cooked through (about 10-12 minutes). Chop a 3 cm strip off the pack of nori seaweed, then cut the strip into ½ cm-wide pieces and stir them into the curry. 
For a fuller seaweed taste, add another, larger strip, 2-3 cm wide. Check the seasoning — it may be salty enough with the seaweed. Finally, stir through the fresh coriander, saving a few leaves to garnish. 
Serve with a couple of spoonfuls of cauliflower rice or brown basmati rice and green veg.

Goan fish curry with seaweed & turmeric

Healthy gut green smoothie

Healthy gut green smoothie

Serves 1
  • 2 handfuls organic spinach leaves
  • 220 ml water
  • ½ avocado
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp root ginger, chopped (optional)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
Blitz all the ingredients together in a blender until thick and creamy.

Cook and cool rice to slim

You can make your gut bacteria happy by adding ‘resistant starch’ to your diet. This is a type of starch that, as its name implies, resists digestion in your stomach and small intestine.
Once it reaches the large intestine, it feeds the ‘good’ bacteria which digest it, releasing butyrate which reduces inflammation and strengthens the gut wall.
You’ll find lots of resistant starch in grains, seeds (such as flaxseeds) and legumes, unripe bananas and green peas.
But one of the more surprising places you will find some of it is in pasta or rice that has been cooked and cooled as this changes the structure of the starch, making it more resistant to digestion.
Studies have shown that if you boil rice with a bit of coconut oil, cool it down, then reheat it in a microwave, you can increase the levels of resistant starch roughly 15-fold.
Eating rice this way could halve the amount of calories your gut will absorb from it. 

Studies have shown that if you boil rice with a bit of coconut oil, cool it down, then reheat it in a microwave, you can increase the levels of resistant starch roughly 15-fold [File photo]
Adapted by Louise Atkinson from Covid-19, What You Need To Know About The Coronavirus And The Race For The Vaccine by Dr Michael Mosley, published by Short Books at £6.99.
© 2020 Michael Mosley
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High-yielding rice seeds to help farmers recover from coronavirus pandemic

Published June 2, 2020, 6:34 PM
By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz 
More than 1 million bags of certified inbred rice seeds have been delivered to rice-producing cities and municipalities to help farmers recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Description: GRAINS OF LIFE – A farmer gathers palay that have dried under the sun and places them in sacks in San Rafael, Bulacan. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said the Philippines is unlikely to achieve self-sufficiency in rice because agricultural lands have been taken over by commercial interests. (Jansen Romero)
Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) Deputy Executive Director Flordeliza Bordey on Tuesday said the seed delivery is almost half of its seed distribution target this planting season.
Through the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF)-Seed Program, Bordey said, “We have delivered 1,128,368 bags and with help from local government units, we have distributed 439,545 bags to more than 113,000 farmers.”


Reaching 64 percent of its target municipalities in two months, the PhilRice official said the seeds – which would be planted in about 126,000 hectares of farmlands – were delivered to 51 provinces.

“This milestone is truly remarkable as it was achieved despite the difficulties in logistics and transportation, quarantine rules constraining staff mobility, and banning of mass gathering in light of COVID threat,” Bordey said.

Compared with farmer-saved seeds from previous harvest, the certified inbred seeds distributed under the RCEF program could yield 10 percent or more as these seeds have high seedling vigor, pure, and uniform crop stand.

Bordey explained that the increase in yield helps ensure enough supply of rice and in improve farmers’ competitiveness, especially under the society’s new normal.

The RCEF-Seed Program, the government’s intervention to enhance farmers’ competitiveness in a free trade regime, aims to distribute more than 2.5 million bags of high-quality seeds to more than one million Filipino rice farmers, which is about twice the total number of bags distributed and beneficiaries reached by the Institute when it rolled out the program in October 2019.

Farmers listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture and are practicing transplanting method can receive one 20-kilogram (kg) bag of seed for every half hectare of cultivated area up to a maximum of six bags for those who have rice fields larger than 2.5 hectares.

Meanwhile, farmers practicing the direct-seeding method can receive two bags of seeds for every half hectare.

Riceland Foods launches ‘Ingrain Good’ sustainability initiative

by George Jared (  215 views 
Riceland Foods announced Monday (June 1) its new Ingrain Good initiative focused on creating value through sustainability across the farmer-owned cooperative.
Riceland Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Ben Noble said the new initiative is the key to the cooperative’s future in becoming a leader in sustainable practices to better serve its farmer members, customers and consumers across the supply chain.

“As consumer demand shifts, we have to change. Consumers want their food to be sustainably grown. Our job is to make that happen from farm to table,” said Noble. “Ingrain Good is our way of telling the story of our farmers’ sustainable practices on their family farms and our cooperative’s dedication to making sustainability a priority across all areas of our business.”
The mission of Ingrain Good is to create value for Riceland’s members, employees, customers and consumers by prioritizing the education and adoption of sustainable practices. Riceland will focus improvement efforts on reducing its carbon footprint, maximizing efficiencies, reducing consumption of natural resources and optimizing the safety and well-being for all people associated with the cooperative.
“As demand for sustainably produced food increases across the food supply chain, the need to ‘tell our story’ through data rings louder than ever before,” said Adam Shea, Riceland’s director of sustainability. “As a farmer owned cooperative, we believe we are uniquely positioned to capitalize on the growing needs and demands of the supply chain to share our story.”
For the past several years, Riceland has been actively involved in the agriculture industry’s sustainability efforts, working alongside groups like Field to Market, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and USA Rice Federation.
The Ingrain Good initiative will combine Riceland’s operational data with farm level data to help USA Rice meet and exceed the goals outlined in its 2030 Sustainability Goals.
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UPDATE 1-Vietnam aims to export 7 million tonnes of rice this year - govt

JUNE 2, 2020 / 6:36 PM

By Khanh Vu
HANOI, June 2 (Reuters) - Vietnam, the world’s third-largest rice exporter, aims to ship 7 million tonnes of the grain this year, greater than last year’s volume, the government said on Tuesday.
The Southeast Asian country fully resumed rice exports in May after it briefly banned shipment of the grain in March and limited April shipments to 500,000 tonnes.Those measures were taken to ensure it had sufficient food during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This will be 400,000-500,000 tonnes higher than last year,” Mai Tien Dung, chief of the government office, said at a news conference.Dung said the country had bumpy rice harvests this year from dry weather conditions and the intrusion of salty water in the Mekong Delta.He said Vietnam had put aside enough rice for domestic use, stockpiling 270,000 tonnes of rice, including 80,000 tonnes of unhusked paddy, to ensure food security.Vietnam’s rice exports in the first five months of this year rose 3.7% from a year earlier to 2.86 million tonnes, according to the government’s customs data. (Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Martin Petty)

Drought in Thailand good news for Australian barley growers

Grain Brokers Australia, June 2, 2020
Subsurface moisture levels between 1 January and 7 February 2020. which show the impact of drought in South-east Asia. Image: NASA Earth Observatory
SEVERE DROUGHT in Thailand in the first five months of 2020 has adversely affected the production of off-season (dry season) rice and corn, primarily due to a lack of irrigation water as reservoirs are critically low.
This will decrease the country’s exportable surplus of rice and potentially increase demand for imported wheat and barley in the 2020/21 marketing year.
Most of Thailand’s rice and corn production occurs during their wet season with planting commencing in May and running through to the end of June for rice and the end of August for corn.
The corn harvest commences in September and runs to the end of the year while the rice harvest is concentrated into the last two months of the year.
The dry season production cycle is heavily reliant on the availability of irrigation water. Most of the planting occurs in November and December, and harvest is generally completed by the end of April.
The area planted to dry-season crops fell 36 per cent to 1.4 million hectares relative to the 2018/19 crop year, after historically low precipitation during the 2019 monsoon led to record low water storage inflows late last year. Consequently, production of off-season rice and corn are forecast to decline by 41pc and 25pc respectively compared to the previous season.
Total 2019/20 rice production is forecast at 18 million tonnes (Mt), 14.8Mt in the wet-season production cycle and 3.2Mt in the dry-season window. This is the second-lowest level of production in the last ten years after a severe drought in the 2015/16 season slashed output to 15.8Mt.
Thailand’s corn production in the current marketing year is expected be around 4.5Mt, a fall of 20pc on 2018/19 levels. This was mainly due to an infestation of fall armyworm in the wet-season crop and a dry spell in June and July last year, seriously slowing early crop development.
Demand for feed grain in Thailand in 2020/21 is forecast to remain relatively static at around 20.3 Mt as shrinking swine production, a result of African swine fever, is offset by growing production in the poultry, dairy cattle, and fishery sectors. Nevertheless, this is contingent upon a recovery in animal protein consumption to pre-COVID-19 levels by early 2021 at the latest.
Of the total feed demand, the derived demand for corn is estimated at around 8.5Mt. But even with an expected rebound in domestic corn production in 2020/21, local corn producers will still only be able to supply around 6Mt.
It is this gap, between domestic animal feed requirements and corn production, that will drive import demand for corn, particularly from neighbouring countries like Myanmar, and other livestock feeds such as feed wheat, barley and dried distillers’ grain.
Thai wheat imports are forecast to decrease by 2pc in 2020/21, to 3.2Mt. Milling wheat is expected to make up just over one-third of these imports at 1.1Mt, down from 1.4Mt in 2019/20. The current season imports were higher than normal after flour millers built stocks when the government announced plans to ban the agricultural pesticides glyphosate, paraquat, and chlorpyrifos.
The 2020/21 milling wheat demand could fall even further if the tourism sector doesn’t recover quickly from the effects of COVID-19. Tourist arrivals in March fell by more than 76pc compared to a year earlier, having a devastating impact on street vendors and noodle stalls.
Feed wheat for the intensive livestock production sector makes up the 2.1Mt import balance.  The government retains import limits on feed wheat that have been in place since January 2017 to protect domestic corn farmers from cheaper feed wheat imports.
Under these restrictions, importers are required to purchase domestic corn before being permitted to import feed wheat at a 3-to-1 absorption ratio. In other words, to import a tonne of feed wheat, a mill must use three tonnes of domestic corn. The government also set the minimum purchase price for 2019/20 season domestic corn at 8 baht per kilogram, approximately US$252/t, for feed mills.
With lower domestic corn production, these constraints seriously hamper the ability of stockfeed merchants to fill the demand void with imported wheat. This is where imported feed barley comes into the equation.
Last week the Thai Feed Millers Association (TFMA) passed on its wheat tender which had called for up to 227,500t of feed wheat for August to October delivery. It was said the offers were considered too high. The lowest was reported around US$215/t cost & freight (C&F), $10/t higher than expectations.
Maybe this opens the door for more purchases of Australian feed barley. Australian barley prices have recovered somewhat from the sharp drop after the draconian Chinese tariffs were imposed, but at around $195/t C&F Thailand, it is significantly cheaper than the latest feed wheat tender prices.
While not in the same league as China, Thailand has been an increasingly active buyer of Australian barley in recent years. Purchases of 250,000t in the 2017/18 Australian crop season (October to September) increased to almost 400,000t in 2018/19, making them Australia’s third-largest barley customer. At more than 430,000t, purchases in the first six months of this season have already exceeded last year’s total, with almost all of it being feed barley.
South-East Asian countries such as Thailand will not individually replace China as a destination for Australian barley. However, with a significant freight advantage over Black Sea origins, the region can play a critical role in shifting the focus away from China and avoid competing head to head with Black Sea exporters into Saudi Arabia.
This article was written by Grain Brokers Australia.

Cambodia's rice export to China up 25 per cent in 5 months

·         Tuesday, 02 Jun 2020
12:11 PM MYT
PHNOM PENH (Xinhua): Cambodia exported 136,825 metric tonnes of milled rice to China during the first five months of 2020, up 25 per cent over the same period last year, according to an official report released on Monday (June 1).
China remained the biggest buyer of Cambodian rice during the January-May period this year, said the report of the Secretariat of One Window Service for Rice Export, adding that export to China accounted for 38 per cent of the country's total rice export.
It also showed that Cambodia exported 122,010 tonnes of milled rice to the European markets during the period, up 51 per cent.
According to the report, the kingdom shipped a total of 356,097 tonnes of milled rice to 54 countries and regions during the first five months of this year, up 42 per cent over the same period last year.
Cambodia produced approximately 10 million tonnes of paddy rice year, according to the ministry of agriculture. With this amount, the country saw paddy rice surplus of about 5.6 million tonnes in equivalent to 3.5 million tonnes of milled rice. - Xinhua

GIEWS Country Brief: Guyana 01-June-2020



2 Jun 2020

Originally published

2 Jun 2020



·         Rice production forecast well above‑average level in 2020
·         Rice exports forecast to continue rising trend in 2020 marketing year
Rice production forecast well above‑average level in 2020
Harvesting of the 2020 first season paddy crop, which accounts for half of the annual production, is virtually complete and yields of the harvested crops are similar to the record high yields obtained in 2019. The improvement of extension services of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) and the expanding of public agricultural investments supported crop yields.
Planting of the 2020 second season paddy crop is ongoing under slightly dry weather conditions. Sowings are expected to increase compared to the record level in 2019 due to improved financial gains for farmers, prompted by strong demand for exports. Precipitation amounts are forecast to increase in the June‑August period across the main producing coastal areas, which are likely to support crop germination and development.
The 2020 paddy production is forecast to increase for the fourth consecutive year and reach 1.1 million tonnes, about 15 percent higher than the five‑year average.
Rice exports forecast to continue rising trend in 2020 marketing year
Rice is the country’s third most important export commodity, after gold and cargo containers, with about half of the annual production being exported. Rice exports have been on the rise over the past three years due to increasing production and are forecast to continue rising in the 2020 marketing year (January/December). Rice exports in 2020 are forecast at 530 000 tonnes, more than 20 percent above the last five‑year average.
COVID‑19 and measures adopted by the Government
The COVID‑19 emergency measures were adopted on 3 April 2020 for a two‑month period, which included the curfew from 18:00 to 06:00 hours and the temporary closure of the borders and non‑essential business activities. The Government is also distributing food packages to support the vulnerable population affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic and has recently announced cash transfer measures for small farmers.
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Centre hikes support prices of kharif crops
2 min read . Updated: 01 Jun 2020, 11:10 PM ISTSayantan Bera
·         But the marginal increase is unlikely to cheer farmers hit by falling prices
·         The increase in MSP ensures that farmers will receive a price between 50% to 83% over their production costs, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar says
NEW DELHI : The central government on Monday announced minimum support prices (MSPs) of 14 kharif crops, planting for which will begin shortly with the progress of the annual monsoon.
MSPs of major rain-fed crops such as paddy, maize, arhar, moong, urad, groundnut, soybean and cotton for the 2020-21 marketing season were raised by a modest 2-5% compared to a year earlier.
This marginal increase is unlikely to cheer farmers who have been battered by a steep fall in prices of perishables in the past few months because of a coronavirus lockdown-induced fall in demand and repeated supply disruptions.
MSP is the price at which government agencies purchase crops from farmers. India’s kharif season starts with the onset of the monsoon in June and harvesting begins in October.
For rice, the main kharif crop, the Centre has fixed MSP at 1,868 per quintal, an increase of 53 over last year.
However, the 2.9% hike in rice MSP this year is lower than the 3.6% increase announced in 2019. It is also the lowest increase in the past five years.
In 2018, rice MSP was raised by a huge 12.9% year-on-year (y-o-y), ahead of the general elections held the following year.
Support price for maize was raised by 5.1% y-o-y to 1,850 per quintal. Among pulses, MSP of arhar or pigeon pea was fixed at 6,000 per quintal, an increase of 3.4%.
Similarly, MSPs of moong (green gram) and urad (black gram) were raised to 7,196 per quintal (an increase of 2.1%) and 6,000 per quintal (an increase of 5.3%), respectively.
Among major oilseeds, MSP of soybean was raised by 4.6% to 3,880 per quintal. MSP of long staple cotton was hiked by 5% to 5,825 per quintal.
The hike in MSP ensures that farmers will receive a price between 50% to 83% over their production costs, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said while announcing the decisions. The decision to fix MSP at 50% over production costs, which include all input costs plus a notional value of family labour, has been in place since 2018.
However, farmers’ rights groups have repeatedly pointed out that the cost matrix taken by the government does not include components such as the rental value of land and interest on value of owned capital assets.
This inflates the returns accrued to farmers compared to what they actually receive in cases where they can sell their produce at the support prices.
For instance, during 2019-20, at an MSP of 1,815 per quintal, paddy farmers got a return of 50.2% over the cost matrix used by the government (A2 plus FL), but the returns were significantly lower at 12% going by comprehensive costs (also known as C2).
The Union cabinet on Monday also approved an extension of the deadline by which farmers have to repay short-term crop loans. Usually farmers receive a 3% prompt repayment incentive if they repay their crop loans by March. This was extended to August because of the lockdown imposed to check the spread of the coronavirus, which has been in place since 25 March.
Following the announcements related to the agriculture sector, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter that the central government has fulfilled its promise by fixing MSP at a level which is 1.5 times the cost of production. “Care has also been taken towards improving the financial situation of our farmers," the prime minister added.

Kenya: State Agency Buys Sh300 Million Rice From Mwea Farmers

1 JUNE 2020

By George Munene
The Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) has bought rice worth Sh300 million from farmers in Mwea, Kirinyaga County, following the presidential directive issued in March.
A kilogramme of rice is being bought at Sh85 and farmers have delivered nine million kilos of their produce to their Mwea Multi-purpose Cooperative Society's stores. Initially, unprocessed rice sold at Sh45.
KNTC Chief Executive Officer Timothy Mirugi said the presidential directive must be implemented and urged the farmers to be patient.
"We are offering a fair price to farmers and we are going to purchase all the rice delivered because the funds are available," he said. When President Uhuru Kenyatta visited Kirinyaga recently, he directed KNTC to buy the rice to protect farmers, who grow the crop at the giant Mwea Irrigation Scheme, from exploitation by brokers.
He noted that for decades, farmers had been exploited by middlemen, making it difficult for them to break even.
Brokers normally offer between Sh45 and Sh50 per kilogramme of rice and farmers had been complaining that the prices were too low.
The farmers lamented that it was difficult to make profits because the brokers took advantage of lack of markets for their produce to buy the commodity at a throw away price.
The farmers thanked the government for coming to their rescue.
"We are now smiling all the way to the bank," said Mr Simon Njogu, one of the farmers.
The Mwea scheme produces 80 per cent of rice consumed in Kenya.
But the production is not enough and Kenya has to import more rice to cater for the deficit.
Currently the government is constructing the Sh20 billion Thiba Dam in Rukenya village, Gichugu Constituency to boost rice farming so that the country can produce enough for its rising population and surplus for export.

India raises 2020/21 common rice purchase price by 2.9%
·         JUNE 1, 2020 / 5:56 PM

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI, June 1 (Reuters) - India has raised the price at which it will buy new-season common rice varieties from local farmers by 2.9%, the agriculture minister said on Monday.For common grades of rice, the government has fixed the support price at 1,868 Indian rupees ($24.75) per 100 kg, Narendra Singh Tomar told a news conference.
Buoyed by the increase in the guaranteed price, Indian farmers are expected to plant more rice in June and July, when monsoon rains spur planting of the staple in the world’s biggest exporter of the grain.Above-average monsoon rains should also boost crop yields.
The higher output will force the government to buy more from local farmers, bumping up local supplies and adding extra stocks to brimful granaries.
The government also raised the purchase price of long staple cotton to 5,825 rupees per 100 kg against 5,550 rupees from the previous year and that of soybean to 3,880 rupees, up from 3,710 in 2019/20.
Higher cotton output will help India, the world’s biggest producer of the fibre and boost its exports to Asian buyers such as China, Bangladesh and Vietnam.
At the same time, the increase in soybean production could cut expensive vegetable oil imports by India, the world’s No. 1 buyer of edible oils. (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav and Mayank Bhardwaj; editing by Barbara Lewis)

UAE grows rice in the desert as coronavirus supply chains worries spur innovation

mirati man reads the front of a package of Indian Basmati rice in a supermarket in Dubai. (File photo: AFP)
BloombergTuesday 02 June 2020
The United Arab Emirates doesn’t spring to mind as an obvious place to farm rice, but the coronavirus is prodding the arid nation to explore new ways of feeding itself.
In a pilot project with South Korea’s Rural Development Administration, the UAE last month harvested around 1,700 kilograms (two tons) of rice in the emirate of Sharjah. The partners planted Asemi rice, a popular variety in East Asia, because it can withstand heat and salty soils. An underground irrigation system that drips water instead of spraying it was crucial to the project’s success.
“This pandemic has sent a strong message that diversification always has to be a key element of our future plans,” Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE’s minister of climate change and environment, said in an interview. The virus “is pushing us to come up with more innovative ways to grow faster than the rest of the world.”
The UAE imports as much as 90% of its food -- the 1,700 kilograms in the pilot project are just a fraction of what it needs -- and the virus has proven a stern test for the country’s overseas supply chains. Although the UAE has so far avoided any serious disruptions in food imports, the pandemic is acting as a catalyst for the nation’s efforts to produce more of what it eats.
“We have to target the crops that are in high demand locally,” Al Zeyoudi said. “This is one of the things we’ve noticed during the pandemic.”
Next up could be projects for coffee and wheat, he said.

Desert crops

Cultivating food crops on a large scale in a desert environment may sound quixotic. Rice, wheat and coffee could drain scarce water resources, and summer temperatures in excess of 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) severely limit the seasons for open-field agriculture.
Climate change will only intensify the challenge.
“Local production is becoming a priority in the whole of the UAE,” Al Zeyoudi said. “The next step is going to be that we reach the right level of water consumption.”
The climate change and environment ministry hopes to learn from the experiences of other countries. Neighboring Saudi Arabia grew wheat on a massive scale for decades, using rotary sprinklers using limited groundwater supplies. Such irrigation systems are “not an option any more, including for us in the UAE.”
More promising alternatives that minimize water use include underground drip irrigation and, for certain vegetables, so-called vertical farms that grow crops inside climate-controlled facilities, he said. The South Korean-backed rice project used desalinated seawater, which the UAE can produce in abundance, instead of relying on groundwater pumped from depleting aquifers.
The ministry is urging local farmers to embrace new technologies, Al Zeyoudi told Bloomberg TV on Tuesday. A mobile phone app that lets farmers access crop and livestock data and services has gained popularity since the pandemic struck. The app helps farmers manage their business while maintaining social distancing.
Even as it experiments with crops and expands local farms, the government is strengthening its overseas supply network. The UAE already owns farms in more than 60 countries, and it may invest in others. Thanks partly to this extensive web of holdings, the country ranked 21st for food security, tied with Japan, in the 2019 Global Food Security Index compiled by The Economist Intelligence Unit.
“We’re going to ensure that our international agreements, our international alliances, are more solid than before,” Al Zeyoudi said, declining to say how much money the government might budget for additional farmland investments outside the UAE.
“This pandemic has really driven home the need for a two-way approach to meeting people’s food needs.”

Thailand returns to roots as food exports soar

Thailand returns to roots as food exports soar

PUBLISHED : 2 JUN 2020 AT 10:34
Description: Ducks feed on a rice field outside Bangkok on May 2, 2020. (Reuters photo)Ducks feed on a rice field outside Bangkok on May 2, 2020. (Reuters photo)
Thailand is returning to its economic roots as a food producer, with overseas demand for rice, seafood, fruit and other edibles bolstering exports even as the Covid-19 pandemic dents production and shipments of manufactured goods.
The proportion of food- and agricultural-related exports to total shipments jumped to 19.7% in April, their highest level in eight years, Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director-general of the Commerce Ministry’s trade policy and strategy office, said in an interview Monday, even as total exports fell 3.3% that month.
Fresh, frozen and processed foods, plus crops and other agricultural products, generally have accounted for 15%-16% of overseas sales in recent years, she said.
“This may be a new normal for Thai exports,” Ms Pimchanok said, adding that food and agricultural exports could surpass 20% of the total this year, with that level “likely to continue for quite some time.”
“Even though this proportion can’t offset falling industrial shipments, it helps millions of people because of the long supply chain in the farm and food sectors,” she said.
Thailand has long been a major exporter of an array of commodities such as rice, tapioca, sugar and pineapples. Some companies have also become world leaders in ready-to-cook meals, food processing and quality control.
Those value-added technologies offer hope to millions of farmers and food producers this year, when the economy faces its worst contraction in more than two decades. Thailand received no foreign tourists or related spending in April, according to official data, as borders were kept closed to fight the Covid-19 outbreak.
Among Thailand’s biggest agro-industrial companies is Charoen Pokphand Foods Plc, which generated 73% of its 138 billion baht of revenue in the January-March quarter from abroad. Its motto, the “kitchen of the world”, highlights divisions ranging from animal breeding to food processing, and frozen-meat shipments to prepared meals.
Thai Union Group Plc, which owns seafood brands including Chicken of the Sea and John West, is another leading food exporter.
More key points:
• Electronics exports will see an up-tick later this year amid supply-chain adjustments stemming from US-China trade friction; the work-from-home trend will also boost demand, she said
• Auto exports may improve as removal of lockdowns eases logistics and some people turn to cars rather than mass transit
• The baht is unlikely to strengthen much because of the weak economy and low interest rates
• Exports may still contract this year, but not sharply, she said
• A rise in oil prices would boost oil-related products, which account for 11.5% of total exports, Ms Pimchanok said
• Thailand may enter technical deflation in May if the consumer price index contracts for a third straight month
• Most prices of consumer products have barely changed, in line with weak demand, but CPI has been dragged down by energy prices

Japanese machine speeds up the grain harvesting process

Emerald Pellot
Jun 2nd 2020 12:45PM
Iseki is a Japanese agricultural machinery manufacturing company that aims to modernize Japanese agriculture. Its rice harvesting machine is the perfect example of how grain harvesting has evolved thanks to technological advances in equipment.
Harvesting a cereal crop like wheat, barley or rice requires a three-step process that was once tedious for farmers. First, the plant was cut down, then the edible grain part is separated from the inedible chaff. This is called threshing and it’s done by beating the stalks. Lastly, workers had to clean debris off the grain in order for the mill to use it.
Iseki’s harvesting equipment completes all of these steps with ease. Instead of being relegated to the laborious process of cutting, threshing and cleaning, workers simply operate the machine.
Farmers drive the combine harvester into the field of rice crops and as the machine rides over the crops it cuts, threshes and cleans the grains. Most combine harvesters like this one use a series of rotating blades, sieves, wheels and elevators to achieve what once took hours, in mere seconds.
Iseki’s harvester is optimized for high performance with its branded engine. The 90-liter fuel tank is great for continuous work but also requires less fuel to operate than other machines. In addition to a cutting section with an adjustable height for various crop sizes, its massive threshing drum can be reversed to remove stuck rice stems.
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